The City's top watchdog has been branded a "toothless tiger" by firms claiming to have been ruined by Royal Bank of Scotland's controversial restructuring unit.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) internal board minutes concluded that making its full report of the unit publicly available would expose it to the threat of legal action from RBS managers, according to reports on Monday.
Thousands of firms were put into GRG, or global restructuring group, in the years after the financial crisis and an FCA-commissioned review in 2014 found the unit had "systematically" mistreated small businesses.
The watchdog has been heavily criticised for failing to publish its findings by action groups and leading MPs.
The GRG Action Group, which represents more than 500 business claiming to have been affected said the reports show the FCA "cannot be trusted to safeguard the interests of the thousands of people who lost jobs, businesses and livelihoods".
Monday's reports by the Times suggested the FCA was "forced" into keeping the full report secret.
A spokesperson for the action group said: "The regulator is supposed to be there to protect customers, not banks. Yet in these minutes the FCA’s board describes as a 'risk' the possibility that banking customers might seek to obtain redress for the actions of RBS' rogue bankers.
We’ve been saying all along that the FCA is a toothless tiger, and in these minutes the FCA practically admits as much itself.
It needs to publish its GRG report in full – so that the public, elected lawmakers and the courts, rather than a compromised regulator, can decide what to do about RBS.
The FCA insisted its decision not to publish the report was "consistent with our standard practice".
The watchdog said it would only be able to publish the report with the sign-off of the individuals referenced.
A spokesperson added: "Our experience of previous reviews carried out by the regulators is that that would be a complex and lengthy process and, where consents were not forthcoming, would likely result in only a heavily redacted version of the Skilled Persons’ Report being publishable."